The short of it is that it is a tough course. Early start (3 am), fairly minimally marked ( I've missed turns the 3 times I've run it- which isn't saying much), big climbs(the website says 17,000 ft of elevation-I'm not sure there's quite that much), lots of cobbly dirt roads, and long, exposed, HOT sections over the last 25 miles. I will also say that it's a fabulous course- beautiful first half of the race heading up to Lightning Ridge and Windy Pass, exceptional Aid Station personnel, and for me, a perfect tune up run for the Wasatch 100.
This year's run started early as usual. I was up late the night before enjoying the first night of a weekend 20 year high school reunion, so the 1 am alarm clock was not well received. On the drive down, I was amazed at the amount of traffic on the roads. i have completely forgotten that 1 am on a Fri night is a perfectly normal time for teenagers and single folk to be out driving around. I must be getting old. At the point of the mountain, traffic came to a standstill and it looked as if I-80 was being closed down to 1 lane. There was no where to exit, and I was worried I would miss the start. Luckily, it was short lived and I made it to the start with 5 minutes to spare.
The race started and I found myself running with Sandy White, Jason Berry, Matt Hart, Chris and ??? up the hobble creek road. chris and the ???? guy set a pretty good pace and soon left us on the road. After 4-5 miles Matt, Sandy and I caught back up to them and yo-yo'd until the first aid station at mile 9. A side note-about 4 miles into the run, I stopped for some business in the bushes, and for whatever reason-early am, race jitters, plain forgetfulness-left the one hand-held water bottle I had on the side of the road. It took a mile for me to realize it was gone, but by then it was too late and I wasn't going to go back to retrieve it.. Luckily it was fairly cool, and I figured I could stay hydrated at the aid stations until my first drop bag at mile 16.
We hit the first aid at 4:30, at a fairly relaxed pace. I drank plenty of fluids, and Matt and I took off for the next aid 4 miles away. The next 7 miles were pretty uneventful on dirt roads and Matt and I chatted as we ran along and waited for the sun to lighten the sky. At Rock Canyon (mile 16), I picked up a Nathan pack and some BD Ultra Z-poles. My goal was to keep a good pace on the long climb up to Lightning Ridge, and to drink a full two liters over the next 1 1/2 hours. The climb was beautiful as the sun came up illuminating the upper bowls below Lightning Ridge. I caught up with several early starters, startled some deer heading for their beds, and then I was on Lightning Ridge, and the first game of hide and seek for flagging began. I thought I remembered the trail taking a sharp right off the ridge, but there was no flagging at a snow field covering the trail with no foot prints on it. Matt caught back up to me and we both decided to take the trail. A few yards down, there was a yellowed piece of ribbon from last years race, and then on the other side of the snowfield, we found some bright blue and orange. The single track heading down to Big Springs was beautiful. Fresh wildflowers, lush basins, new sun on the peaks, it doesn't get any better than that. Until, of course, we began descending a rocky, ice filled ravine that I didn't recognize. Stubbornly, I decided to push down not wanting to hike back up to the trail and thinking for sure the ravine wold empty on the trail. The whole valley leads to Big Springs, right? 20 minutes later, after steep ravines, steeper sidehills, and a few choice words, Matt and I were bushwhacking through chin deep brush toward where we thought we heard peoples voices. Luckily, our ears didn't deceive us and we were back on the trail again. We rolled into Big Springs at about 7:35, 25 minutes behind schedule and 5 minutes behind Jason Berry who had passed us while we were exploring new country.
I left Big Springs with another 2 liters of water, determined to drink it all by the time I got to Windy Pass. Matt's drop bag hadn't arrived yet, and he was missing his sunglasses. About a mile later, we ran into John Bozung (RD) and I think Matt stopped to talk to him about his drop bag, because that's the last I saw of him until Windy Pass. It was starting to get hot, I focused on a good hike, running where I could, and the only thing exciting was that I passed the biggest pile of bear poop I've ever seen. I thought it was horses at first glance. It's good to be reminded once in a while that we aren't the only ones to use these trails. Just before Windy Pass I caught sight of Jason Berry, and we came into the aid station together. I grabbed another 2 liters of water and some pringles and took off. Bozung had said that this next 9 miles of traverse down to Little Valley was extra over grown and he was right!! Matt, Jason and I fought our way through the overhanging branches slapping our faces, the extra thick overgrowth and the downed trees. Somewhere in here Matt and I found ourselves running alone again, and then I started to feel just a little bit funky and Matt quickly pulled away. Over the next hour I struggled a little. I managed to keep eating and drinking, but I just wasn't feeling it. Over a 45 minute period, my feet lost their spring and I couldn't avoid the overabundant rocks and roots. I took 6 spills, 3 Cat II's and 3 Cat I's(See Jay's 2010 Kat'cina report for details). The Cat II's being full on face plant, yard sale, tuck and rolls. By the time I got to Little Valley, I looked like Pig Pen.
At Little Valley, I was still about 30 minutes behind where I had hoped to be at this point. I caught sight of Matt on the out and back, drank a coke, filled two water bottles and took off, with the ridiculous idea that I could cover the last 23 miles in a little over 3 and 1/2 hours. I caught up to Matt on the long dirt road climbing out of Little Valley, shared my thoughts that in order to beat Jay's time of 11:27 from last year we would have to average 9 minute miles, then put my head down and started hiking. I knew that the dirt road was long, but I forgot that it was pretty much all exposed uphill to the next aid station. I hiked, and hiked, and hiked some more. I think I ran maybe 2 of the nest 7 miles. By the time I got to the Bath Tub aid station at mile 45.5, I knew that Jay's time was out of reach, and I was hoping to hang onto a sub 12. I drank a Red Bull at the Bath Tub (race day is the only day I can handle a Red Bull, it's like sweet nectar) and headed out into the heat. And it was hot!
The last 17 miles were all about trying to stay cool and hydrated, and I don't think I did quite as well as I could have. My stomach started to shut down a little, not queasy, just not feeling like eating, so I concentrated on getting calories through drinking. Due to the multiple falls/toe stubs earlier in the day, my right toes were pretty tender causing my gait to change a little on the downhills, resulting in a number lof rather large blisters developing on my right toes, Which altered my stride even more. All of the sudden it wasn't that fun to run anymore!
I made it to the last Aid station at mile 56 with 55 minutes to squeak out a sub 12 finish. I drank another Red Bull and a couple cups of water, filled my water bottle with Ginger Ale, and hit the last 6 miles of pavement. The temperature at this point was around 90 degrees, and someone told me that the radiant temperature from the asphalt was around 105. I was melting, and it was all I could do to not jump in the cool waters of Hobble Creek. Finally, the finish at Kelly's Grove. I made it in 11:56 for my third finish of the Kat'cina Mosa. After a 15 minute soak in the river and 40 oz of cold chocolate milk, I felt great and was able to sit around for a few minutes to talk about the day with all the awesome volunteers helping out at the finish.
Matt came in second, just a few weeks after an incredible effort at the Hardrock 100 in 12:31 and Jason finished 3rd in 12:49 looking very strong. Congrats to both of them and to all the participants in the run! It was a tough year to be out there.
Thanks to all the volunteers and aid station personnel who make these races happen! Thanks to my wife and kids for their continued encouragement, and thanks to the Wasatch Running center for thier support.